Friday, January 8th, 2010...8:41 pm

Thoughts on this week’s H&M debacle

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This was kind of a big week for ethical fashion news. The New York Times outed H&M for intentionally destroying and discarding unsold merchandise at a New York store, to which the brand responded with a statement saying they would make sure it wouldn’t happen again. And amidst it all, H&M launched a spring line this week that appears to be the brand’s largest use of eco-friendly textiles ever. Oops.

Here’s how the story went down — my thoughts are below:

On Tuesday, the story of destroyed H&M clothes broke in the Times.

On Wednesday afternoon, after receiving a slew of comments on the H&M Facebook fan page, the company posted this statement:

H-M-Facebook

On Wednesday evening, the NYT published a follow-up, which included this comment from H&M:

“It will not happen again,” said Nicole Christie, a spokeswoman for H & M in New York. “We are committed 100 percent to make sure this practice is not happening anywhere else, as it is not our standard practice.”

This afternoon, H&M added this status to their Facebook page, noting their continued commitment to donating unsold clothes to charity:

H-M-Facebook-2

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Many blogs have lambasted H&M for the news. But to look at it another way — I think this is one of those hallmarks that will only improve the impacts of the garment industry as a whole.

Remember how prolific news of sweatshop abuses was in the late 1990s? Not only does that news still tarnish the reputations of brands like Nike and figures like Kathy Lee (despite being no longer relevant), it has no doubt inspired many brands to take all precautions possible to avoid the same fates — such as ISO certifications, blind audits of factories, etc.

In the same way, this week’s news will inspire brands to make sure they’re taking proper care of their own unsold clothes by donating it to the greater good.

And more importantly, this news has further empowered us as consumers and in the media. The New York Times story was tipped off by a watchdog consumer in the first place, and then consumers weighed in like crazy on Facebook and Twitter — on the latter, “H&M” was the No. 2 trending topic on Wednesday. (One of which was mine!)

Well done, friends.

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One last note: I used to post H&M news on this blog thanks to info on their excellent Corporate Responsibility page, as well as info I’ve heard from others in the industry about the company’s interest in sustainable textiles. (Which, presumably, is being manifested in this new Garden Collection.) I don’t typically write about them anymore because they epitomize fast fashion, but for buys like undies and socks — which are clearly not intended to live a particularly long life — I think buying from H&M occasionally can be okay.

Feel free to also note that this 10-month-old Treehugger article mentions at the end that H&M makes a practice of donating unsold clothes.

So, what do you guys think?

2 Comments

  • i can’t say that i’m terribly surprised to hear this, but it is pretty unfortunate.

    i remember reading something else really similar about anthropologie in the last year or so. the article mentioned that they destroy and then throw away their merchandise if it gets marked down to a price that is less than their “level of quality”…

    i think an employee somewhere also leaked that the main reason that they do this is that because if their prices reflected those of a “discount store”, then their demographics of their clientele would change and that would then have a negative impact on their brand.

    crazy.

  • [...] think their market will respond to, but if demand isn’t as high as expected, we end up with slashed clothes being thrown out by H&M and excess orders being sold off to discount stores like Marshall’s and TJ [...]

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